MD Food Bank Blog: BJ’s Charitable Foundation Helps Build Partner Capacity

Posted by on May 15, 2016

Our 17' UHaul waits alongside our monthly Mobile Produce Drop. Copyright MD Food Bank

Our 17′ UHaul waits alongside our monthly Mobile Produce Drop. Copyright MD Food Bank

Originally published by The Feed, Maryland Food Bank News-Blog, on April 20, 2016

Pamela Caple wasn’t surprised by the line of 240 families wrapped around the parking lot of Friendship Baptist Church during a recent Pantry on the Go event. In her two years serving as the Executive Director of Friendship Outreach Center, she has already seen an increase in her community’s need for food assistance.

“Usually, we have about 200 people come,” Caple said. “Sometimes, they line up at 3 or 4 in the morning, even though we don’t start the distribution until 9. There’s such a need in the community, and we’re the only group in this immediate area who has a Pantry on the Go distribution.”

This growing need is familiar to many of the food bank’s community partners across Maryland. And as our partners work to expand their physical capacity to store food to meet their community’s need, they must be equipped to pick up larger quantities of food. While some partners have access to personal trucks, vans, and cars, these vehicles often have limited storage capacity. Meanwhile, other partners have no vehicles for transporting food.

But a recent capacity-building grant provided by BJ’s Charitable Foundation, via Feeding America, is working to mitigate this problem. The funding from BJ’s supported the purchase of U-Haul trucks to increase transportation capacity for three of our community partners: Friendship Outreach Center, Project Plase, and St. John’s Baptist Church.

The U-Haul trucks will empower these partners not only to pick up more pounds of product from the food bank for their pantries and distribution events, it will also enable them to share excess food with partners in their NPACs.

“Support from the BJ’s Charitable Foundation grant has enhanced the ability of our agencies to pick up and distribute food to their clients, while reducing partner fees,” said Matt Whelan, our Chief Operations and Finance Officer. “We are saving money and driver time so we don’t have to be the middle men. It has allowed us to divert those resources elsewhere to reach our mission.”

Friendship Outreach Center has already been able to pick up food directly from the food bank, and distribute hundreds of pounds of excess food to St. Mathias Episcopal Church, one of their local NPAC members. As this type of collaboration develops, it will help even more of our partners meet the growing need in their communities

This funding also lays the groundwork for these three partners to pick up donated food from local retailers. Each partner signed a good faith agreement to pick up donated product from local grocery stores and share excess food with their NPACs.

“People so appreciate this,” Capel said. “They look forward to coming here each month, and telling us what recipes they’ve made with the food they get. The truck has been a tremendous help to our pantry events — and it’ll be better once we start fully working with our NPACs.”

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